Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Sunday, March 30, 2008

An Examined Life

Someone – I think it was one of the famous old Greek philosophers – once said that “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I suppose he was partly right – if I hadn’t spent enough time staring at my navel to figure out that I’m a woman, I’d probably have killed myself by now. But he sure didn’t have it all right; or, at least, he didn’t include the need for balance.

The truth of the matter is, the more I examine my life, the closer to despair I go. I see what I’ve missed in life, how I’ve been socialized, how inadequate – no, not inadequate, just wrong – my body is, how difficult social situations are, how impossible it is to be seen for who I am – and I’ve got nowhere to go but down. It’s really easy to go down that road. When I’m by myself, when my activity is not fully engaging, my attention automatically goes to introspection, then anxiety or despair.

There’s a better way – getting outside myself. By whatever means, just move my focus from my navel to the outside. I’ve found a bunch of ways to do that. It can be as simple as a game of chess, or sudoku. It can be a task that I enjoy, or that is engaging – writing, blogging, designing, building.

But my favorite is to spend time with my girlfriends. How blessed it is to find them! Women who recognize me for who I am, and who welcome me into their circle, as one of them. And, since my transition, I’m further blessed, because there are so many – including the one I live with.

And if that isn’t enough, when some navel-gazing is in order, there are trans friends who understand my experience. Shared introspection gives me a chance to process it all outside of myself, where despair turns into hope.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Celebrating NVC

Boy, did Trin and I have a blow-up yesterday!

First, he brought snakes into the house, even though the night before Kristin emphasized emphatically that she didn't want snakes in the house. When I asked him to take them outside, he refused. (Fair to say, I think I worded it nicely, but it was not a request – it was a demand.) I finally forced him outside with them. Then, when he came in without them, I tried to tell him how annoyed I was about the whole thing.

He stuck his tongue out at me.

I about lost it. I was already angry, but that triggered me so badly that I grabbed him and picked him up. I yelled at him. I threatened to throw him outside with the snakes. And then I realized I was going to0 far, so I snarled, "I need a time out!" I stomped off, slamming the door behind me.

Ten minutes later, I called Kristin, and told her about it. She gave me a little empathy, and then I put Trinidad on the other phone, and went out into the garage so I wouldn't be in the same room with him.

Kristin asked Trin for his story, and that's when I realized he hadn't heard a word I said before sticking out his tongue. He gave a detailed, accurate, and objective account of the entire exchange – no judgments or evaluations, just simple observation – except that he said I'd just told him to go outside, before he stuck out his tongue. I didn't, I said that right after; but he had no memory of me saying anything else, and he knew I'd said something. (Memo to self: Connect first!)

K gave Trin a little empathy, and then asked for my story. I told it with less clarity and lack of judgment than Trin, going beyond observation to include evaluations and guesses about Trin's thoughts. K straightened me out on that, and then gave me a little more empathy.

And something shifted. It shifted in me, and it shifted in Trin.

I went into the living room, where he was. I held out my hand to him. He came to me and hugged me. I sat down on the couch, and he laid across my lap with his head resting on my arm. We cried. I told him I loved him, and he said he loved me, over and over.

The rest of the evening went very well indeed. When it got dark and I said I wanted to close the blinds and lock up the chickens, Trin jumped up and volunteered to do it himself – and he did. We – Sam, Trin and I – played with the boys' legos for a while. And when I said I was going to bed, he hastened into his pajamas, brushed his teeth, and climbed into bed before I could even get ready. No arguments. No crying. Easy, peaceful, and connected.

How sweet it was.

Four Thousand Dead

(long post warning)

I’ve been a bit remiss on an important milestone. Recently it was announced that 4,000 American servicepeople have been killed in Iraq, as violence continues more five years after the American invasion and occupation of that nation. I’ve struggled a bit about how to best acknowledge and commemorate the sacrifice of those killed, how best to honor their memory. Perhaps I’ll fall short in this. However, I do think it is appropriate to take a glace back at how we got here. With that said, I will publish a letter I wrote to the editor of the Eugene Register-Guard, published on September 7, 2002:

“As a former Marine and citizen of a nation founded on the rights of man, I strongly support the right and duty of this nation to defend itself from armed assault. I support the 2nd Amendment, and recognize the folly of appeasing the intimidation and aggression of such despots as Hitler, bin Laden, and Hussein. But to launch a pre-emptive attack on Iraq, we must completely abandon the principles of our founding fathers.

The 2000 election cost us legitimacy as an arbiter of fair elections. Two years of the Bush dictatorship has cost us legitimacy as leaders in environmental and human rights, through our rejection of the Kyoto Accords, international criminal courts, etc. An invasion of Iraq will cost us any legitimacy we have left as a nation. It is an American expansion from economic hegemony to military hegemony. It will relegate us to the role of hypocrite, rogue state, and pariah. We will no longer be playing policeman to the world – we will play vigilante.

Is this really the picture we have of our country? Is this the way we wish to relate to our fellow nations? Did we learn nothing from Japan’s pre-emptive strike against us, at Pearl Harbor? What happened to our principles? Our values?

An unprovoked invasion of Iraq completely abdicates any claim we have to moral high ground. The biggest reason not to invade Iraq is also the simplest. It is wrong.”

And part of a second, published around March 25, 2003:

“... How do I support our troops – our sons and daughters, wives and husbands, mothers and fathers – when they are conducting an operation I am convinced is not only morally unjustified, but disastrous to our diplomacy, economy, and the world’s environment? ...

Mr. Bush’s military adventure isolates us internationally, increases the danger of terrorism here and abroad, and (to counter the terrorism) is making us less free. It is ethically wrong and probably illegal.

...”

Perhaps it’s not helpful to repeat the protests of the past. But let’s not pretend that we got here blindly. The disinformation and misinformation that enabled Mr. Bush in putting our troops in harm’s way was intentional, but easily seen through. The failure of our elected representatives, both Democrat and most especially Republican, to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of their oaths of office have entered the annals of history and disgraced themselves and our country. But our troops have, for the most part, conducted themselves with courage and honor – especially those who sacrified all, and who took a stand against this folly. And those who haven't - well, the fault lies more with their leaders than with them.

It remains to be seen whether the next administration (and congress) will seek to redress this one’s failure, or place their stamp of approval on it by allowing Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, et al, to enter into luxurious retirement, unscathed by the consequences of their crimes. The blood of every American, every Iraqi, every man, woman, and child who died in this tragedy, stains the hands of the architects of it, and cries out for justice - but restorative justice, not retributive or punitive justice.

Whoever wins this election, what this nation needs most is healing. And healing won’t come if we sew up the wound without squeezing the pus out first.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Considering the End

One of my primary goals in starting this blog was to connect more effectively with more of my family and friends. The cost, in making a more public communication, was to make a less personal communication. I hoped that would be an acceptable tradeoff, so that I could reach more people. I've received very little feedback or response, and most of that from someone I try to correspond with regularly anyway. So I wonder if my time and energy won't be better spent in some other endeavor.

Frankly, I'm disappointed in my ability to elicit a response, and discouraged by my failure to create a dialogue. It seems that either I've got no readers, or else my writing doesn't strike a chord. In either case, again, my energy is probably better spent elsewhere.

So I think I'll take a little time and consider whether my goals and intentions for the blog can be adjusted to a strictly one-way communication - a sort of public processing of my emotional turmoil, tossed blindly into the ether - or whether to close it down and seek connection on a more personal level. Perhaps by making more visits to my therapist.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Doulas and crying

Kristin is out of town, helping an old, dear friend give birth to her first baby. I’m so glad and proud that I can support her, taking the boys alone while she performs her doula duties. That support is my gift, as well as hers.

And yet, telling my neighbor about it on the phone, I felt like crying.

I felt like crying because, when I said that Kristin birthed her babies quickly, I felt like I should be saying that about me, too. And when I spoke of her client laboring for over 24 hours, I felt like I should be saying that about me, too.

But I can’t.

It seems so wrong, so surreal, that I can be such a woman, and yet have a body that won’t do woman things.

It’s a hollowness, an ache, a loss that cannot be contained.

Thank god for the boys. At least I can mother them.

Christians are Cool

I’ve been a little hard on Christians recently in this blog, so I want to take a moment to acknowledge the many Christians, some of them conservative and devout, who have embraced me along with my transition; who have been, not only accepting, but supporting; who welcome their children playing with mine.

It is one of the great confusions in my life, that I get such different reactions from people professing the same ideology, and often pegging their actions and reactions, disparate as they may be, to that same ideology. I have trouble integrating it. So I plead patience and forgiveness from all Christians, but especially those who have not cut me off. I also ask for your understanding. If I’m hard on Christians sometimes, I’m not speaking of you. I’m speaking to those who would boycott my employer for giving me health insurance; those who would vote to prevent my right to marry who I please; those who call me ‘worse than terrorists’ and do all they can to make my life miserable. Please understand – if I’m hard on Christians, it’s because a few of them have done or said things that hurt me very badly, and they’ve done it in the name of their God.

I’m very grateful for all of the Christians who have embraced me in my transition. You know who you are, and you have made my life rich. You truly know the meaning that Jesus put into such words as, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” And it shows.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Challenge to Sally Kern

Okay, Sally. You say that “Studies show, no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted for more than, you know, a few decades…” So name one.

Meanwhile, I’ll name a few that lasted a bit longer. Like ancient Greece, which went from the Minoan culture of around 2000 B.C. to the end of the Golden Age, when Rome conquered it sometime around 200 B.C. Eighteen hundred years of not only accepting homosexuality, but of making it the norm.

But, of course, that included a bunch of different aspects – Alexander the Great was Macedonian, and Sparta, and Athens, Corinth, etc. So how about Rome – 700 B.C. to 400 A.D. Interesting to note that Rome was the greatest empire on earth for about 600 years, but it started to fade and fall after adopting Christianity as the state religion in 313 A.D. A hundred years later it was a thin shell of its former glory. Not that I’m relating the two.

Also interesting to note that the Third Reich lasted about 12 years. It started out speaking of its homosexuals and Jews in similar terms to this:
One of my colleagues said We don’t have a gay problem in our community… well you know what, that is so dumb. If you have cancer in your little toe, do you just say that I’m going to forget about it since the rest of you is fine? It spreads! This stuff is deadly and it is spreading. It will destroy our young people and it will destroy this nation.”
and
“I honestly think it’s the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam…”
and ended up sending both Jews and homosexuals to the gas chambers.

Maybe it’s not our homosexuals who are a threat to this nation. Maybe it’s our Sally Kerns.

(Quotes courtesy of http://jmbzine.com/)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Connecting with Christians

I had a good day today, mostly. Went to short school and learned about fire resistive construction, which is a subject I'm starting to get really interested in. Then I went to see my supervisors get a human rights award from the city for helping with my transition. I got a hug from a rather senior city official - good to have friends in high places! I live in a good place.

I think I stuck my foot in it, though - not there, but earlier. I don't know why I try to talk to Christians. (I'm speaking of fundamentalist Christians, of course. Most Christians are compassionate and accepting. Very confusing, really, that they all use the same word to describe such vastly different world-views and religions.)

What can you do when someone's world-view is based on believing that you don't exist? Just by by stripping off the mask of deceit that brought me to the brink of suicide, I'm too big a threat to them to ever connect or have any meaningful dialogue at all. It’s painful to realize that. I’d really like to believe there’s more hope, that love can move them, that there is common ground somewhere to be found. But I'm starting to see, from experience, and Sally Kerns, and Concerned Women for America, and the American Family Research Council, ad nauseum, that they're at war with me, and have no interest in connecting with me, only with eliminating me from their lives and their world - and if I don't defend myself, if I don't fight that war back, I'll suffer the consequences.

Yet I keep trying, longing, to talk, to connect, to explain that I just want to be free to be who I am, and to be safe in my own community and society, and that I think it's just fine they're who they are, and I'd really like it if they were safe, too.

Silly me. When a fundamentalist Christian sees me, he has no choice but to question her own worldview, and that of his pastor and friends, or kill me (either figuratively or literally speaking). And it's a hell of a lot easier to kill me.

Why don't I get it?

The Nine Most Welcome Words in the English Language

Ronald Reagan once famously said, “The nine scariest words in the English language are “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

But I never felt more grateful, or more relief from fear, than at 11:30 p.m. on 4/3/2003, when, less than three minutes after I called 911, a firefighter jumped out of his truck and said, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” So many treasures were saved, smoke-damaged but salvageable, because of his quick action.

And I felt fine when my car broke down on a lonely highway, and a highway patrolman pulled up behind me and said, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

I liked it, too, when I was researching something unfamiliar, and a librarian approached me and said, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

When I was wondering whether the electrician wired my house correctly, or whether I’d have to worry about another fire, I felt relieved when a building inspector showed up and said, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

And when the tornado swept through my town, and the FEMA inspector showed up and said, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help,” what a relief that was! (Obviously, that was prior to 2001.)

When I wanted to know if the plans I had drawn up for my new house were structurally sound, I took them to a plans examiner, who said, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

When I took my kids to the municipal pool, the lifeguard said, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

When I needed a better job, I went to the public university (which I could almost afford, way back then), and every instructor said, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

When I got laid off, the unemployment caseworker said, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help,” and I got assistance in finding a new job and enough money to survive on while I searched.

Again and again, when I need information, or assistance, or education, or relief, I turn to the government. Park rangers. Clean water. Roads. Schools. None of them wanted to sell me anything. They just wanted to provide a service, and make my life a little bit more wonderful.

And I wonder: How can I get so many services, of such great value, for so little? Certainly not from the private sector. Less than 20% of my income goes to provide all this. Others, who make more, pay more. I’m grateful to them. I would so much rather have someone from the government, than a handout.

I think Mr. Reagan got it wrong. They're not the scariest words. Perhap, though, they are the nine most welcome.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Mom Contest

Kristin asked the boys today, “Who would you most like to have as your mom? And don’t worry, I won’t feel hurt if you choose someone other than me.”

The boys thought about it for awhile, then said, “Well, we’re torn.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. We don’t know whether to pick you, Dana, or Evelyn.”

“Why not?”

“Well, Dana cooks frozen pizzas. Evelyn brings sweet treats home from the bagel store. And you know NVC.”

You know, I think we’re doing all right.

News You Just Can't Use

I used to be a news junky. George W. Bush, the MSM, and the Republican RSC (Rubber Stamp Congress) cured me shortly after the 2004 election, when I realized that waiting, day after day, for Congress to start growing a spine and prosecuting the chief executive for ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ (or for the American people to actually demand it/hold the Bush administration accountable) did nothing for my life except cause depression. Since then, I limit my news intake to the minimum necessary to keep up with the Superbowl, March Madness, who to vote for, and the weather.

So when a friend emailed me this article linking Eliot Spitzer’s fall to the RSM, it didn’t exactly cheer me up. In fact, I wondered, “Is my life better for having read this?”

Not really. This is just another case of “News you can’t use.” If it’s true (and this is the kind of conspiracy theory that makes sense to me), what can I do about it? Not much. I can put it in my blog, and maybe three people in the whole world will read about it. And in any case, it was still Eliot’s own idiocy that brought him down. Just another man at the peak of his career, brought down by stupid sexual indiscretion.

You have to wonder – don’t these guys read the papers? Do they live in some kind of vacuum where they haven’t heard of the internet? I mean, I avoid newscasts – and I still see this kind of thing come up again and again.

On the other hand, looking back at history, I see some notorious womanizers who didn’t fall on their swords. Benjamin Franklin comes to mind. John F. Kennedy. Thomas Jefferson had a 25+ year relationship with one of his slaves, and even when it came out in the press, he didn’t have to surrender his position. Even Bill Clinton survived impeachment looking less slimy and sleazy than the RSM that tried to bring him down.

So I wonder if Eliot wouldn’t have been better off to just blow it off. “So what? I wasted a bunch of money on a high-priced call girl. I didn’t hurt anyone except my family. And I think prostitution oughta be legal anyway. I’ll pay my fine, and next time, I’ll go to Nevada. I’ll be single by then, so I won’t even hurt anybody.”

Whatever. The whole thing is depressing, and another reminder that I’m best off concentrating on where I can make a difference – in my own life, with my neighbors and friends and community, actively building an economy of sharing, mutual support, and love; tending my own garden, learning, sharing, and practicing NVC; and avoiding the news.

I feel better already.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Odell Lake - Long, self-indulgent post...

Last week I took Friday off work, and rode up to Odell Lake Lodge, high in the Cascades, with our neighbors and the boys. Eight people in the car - they’ve got a minivan.

We got there, and unloaded and checked into the lodge as quick as we could, which was pretty slow, because Mekiah, Trin, and Sam all started off playing in the snow even before they had snow clothes on. So Tesha or Ted or I (taking turns) tried to get them into coats and gloves and boots and keep them from playing in dangerous places (like sledding into heavy equipment or the parking lot), while the other one checked into the lodge and unloaded stuff from the car. It was like herding cats.

After a while we got enough stuff unloaded that the boys and I could head into the snow, so we took off looking for a sledding hill. There’s a good one just up a ways from the lodge, and we scrounged a cheap plastic sled to go with our own. We had a fine time sledding until it grew dark, and Kristin, Dana, Circe, Jetta, and Joellen showed up.

As darkness overtook the land, the boys reluctantly allowed me to herd them down to the lodge. The kids all packed into Dana’s room, where there was a bunk bed, or ran up and down the hall, while the adults packed stuff in, organized, and set up some semblance of supper. We had until seven to make reservations in the restaurant below. We never did. Instead, (secretly, since they didn’t want people having their own food in their rooms) we packed in two crock pots, two coolers, a toaster oven, a coffee pot, and bags and bags of food. Roger and Brandy (Circe’s parents) weren’t coming until later, so we commandeered their room for the kitchen/dining room, and had a good but scattered dinner, sort of catch-as-catch-can, with kids eating in the hall while playing cards and all kinds of chaos and confusion, mixed with laughter and chatter and occasionally kids crying. At one point, the lodge staff came up and asked the kids to stop running races in the hall, because it was making too much noise downstairs.

Roger, Brandy, and Melea showed up around 10 p.m., and our party was complete – we took over the entire back half of the lodge with 7 adults and 9 kids, raging in age from Jo and Circe (11 yrs.) to Levin and Melea (nursing babies).

As things wound down, Sam was sitting up in bed, and he began to get quiet. His eyes began to droop, and his mouth grew slack. Suddenly, he fell over flat, fast asleep before his head hit the pillow. Trinidad, however, kept jumping up every time someone laughed, saying, “If there’s fun going on, I’m going to be there!”

The next day, I reached out and turned on the coffee pot at about 5:30 a.m. Kristin and Dana got up and headed out to the cross-country trails with their skis, and I settled down in the hall with laptop, Sudoku book, and coffee. Pretty soon Brandy joined me, and I wrote desultorily while chatting with her, sipping coffee, and generally having a fine, quiet time, until Trin woke up. As the kids dragged themselves from bed, the day took off. Trin and I rented snowshoes, everyone else rented skis, and we all headed out for the trails, with Roger (the best skier of the bunch) towing Melea in a little sled.

The lodge is set up on the shore of Odell Lake, a gem of clear water high in the Cascades. The land there is mostly pretty flat, for being high in the mountains. You can see Diamond Peak in the distance, but close by meadows and woods roll along under the snow. We cross-countried along the path until we found a high, steep embankment created for the trains. Brandy took Melea out of the sled to feed her, and a mass of kids and adults scrambled up the bank and began a wild few hours of playing by the railroad tracks. We took turns squeezing into the baby sled and zooming down the embankment. Those with skis practiced going down the embankment. I finally had enough, and asked Roger if I could borrow his. I was up by the tracks when we traded skis for snowshoes, and I tried, first thing, to ski down the embankment. Crazy! I tumbled immediately, and made my way down with many falls, more rolling in the snow than skiing. Once I got to the bottom, though, I had a fine time scooting around the lower, slower hills and humps, and getting used to skis.

Finally we moved on, as hunger and lateness approached. Back at the lodge, the kids headed out for a few more hours of sledding while I took a nap.

That evening, the other moms set out a fantastic supper buffet of bean-and-rice burritos with fixin’s, while I went out skiing with Trin, Sam, and Jo. All went well, until Trin took off ahead while Sam made a pit stop. When Sam had trouble catching up, he lost it, threw a fit, ripped off his skis, and took off running into the twilit woods. I had Sam’s skis and Trin to worry about, so asked Jo to stick with Sam, and she took off skiing after him. What a relief! (Thanks again, Jo!) I packed up Trin and Sam’s skis, and I only fell once as I skied on the way back, even though I was unbalanced with Sam’s skis under my arm. Guess I was focused.

We all got back to the lodge safely, had dinner, and went to bed with more ease than the night before. The kids were simply exhausted.

I got up early the next morning, and Brandy and I went skiing in the early morning. A crust of ice had formed over the snow, but we had a fine time, riding down steep slopes (when we found them) on our butts. We got back around 9 a.m., had breakfast, and Kristin and others went out, while we packed.

Check-out time was eleven, and I was packing and moving stuff as fast as I could when someone came upstairs and said, “Today’s daylight savings time – it’s a quarter-to-twelve!”

We finally got everything outside and checked out an hour or more late. The kids headed once again to the sledding hill, but I was done playing by that time, with a bruise on my butt the size of a saucer from falling on the ice, and muscles that felt like jello. But as the sun started to dip toward the western horizon, I headed once more to the hill, to persuade the kids to come down.

And on the very last sled run, sledding her way to the parking lot to load up and go home, Jo went down a steep drift, landed awkwardly, and broke her arm.

We loaded her up with arnica, Rescue Remedy, and Tylanol, the lodge owner gave her some chocolate bars, and we settled her in Dana’s car with her hand resting on my down coat and a couple handy plastic bags full of snow to ice it. Dana sat in the back with her while I drove, and our short and happy weekend came to an end two hours later, in the parking lot of Urgent Care.

Before we left, though, we reserved our spots for next year, and the year after – but this time, we made sure we could stay in one of the cabins – the biggest cabin, which sleeps sixteen. I bet we can fit more than that in, though!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Can't We All Just Get Along?

I am deeply blessed, I believe, by being politically aware without being a political junkie. I don’t watch the news on TV, and in fact, don’t watch TV. I avoid political advertising like I avoid transphobic right-wing rednecks. I tend to not watch political debates, and instead go to the source, and read what candidates have to say about various issues. I also tend to believe what the candidates say about and for themselves before I believe what their opponents say about them; while at the same time, taking their own words with a grain of salt.

So when I read about Democrats smearing Hillary or Barak, I feel disappointed and sad.

For the record, here is one Obama supporter who has nothing but good to say about Hillary Clinton. I had a difficult choice in picking one over the other, and the balance came down on Obama’s side based hugely on two things: what I believe our nation needs right now to bring us out of this terrible rift of the Culture Wars and the havoc of the Bush mis-administration, and on what roles in which I believe the two candidates, based on their personalities and experiences, can be most effective . They are both good candidates, and I believe they would both make competent presidents. I’ll back Obama to the convention, if need be, and I’ll back the winner, whole-heartedly, all the way to November.

So here is my request to all members of the Democratic community, including the candidates themselves: We’re all on the same team. I’d like to think we can choose a captain without smearing each other. Believe me, the RSM will take care of that, without any help from us. Can we, please, just all get along? Can’t we leave the down-putting and smears to the GOP, and focus instead on supporting our candidates based on their own merits, and on the issues?

In fact, let’s not even smear John McCain. Let’s not concede any issue to him – certainly not national security – but let’s fight based on the issues, not on his personality or any corrupt choices he made in the past. At the same time, let’s defend, vigorously and proactively, against any smears the RSM throws at our candidates – and there will be plenty. Let’s concede nothing to the GOP except slime, and let’s forego slime altogether; let the GOP/RSM have a monopoly on it. Look at the speeches of FDR. He managed to turn attacks on their heads by calling them out, rebutting them, and going straight to the issues of his attackers. Instead of smearing John McCain, let’s point out that he is an honorable man and experienced patriot who just happens to be completely wrong and out-of-touch on national security, on the economy, on health care, on nearly every issue you can think of. Let’s attack his policies, not him. It’s the thing that disappoints me most about the Democratic party – that we feel we need to stoop to the lowness of the GOP, even though we’re right on most of the issues. If we run this campaign based on smears, we’re gonna lose – no way we can smear as well as the RSM. If we run on the issues, no way we can lose - as long as we don’t concede our strengths, such as national security, like Kerry did.

(No, Virginia, a bigger military engaged in more overseas conflicts does not make us more secure. Re-distributing vast quantities of the military budget – 75% or so – to convert our energy supplies from overseas oil to local, renewable sources (even, god forbid, domestic coal and nuclear power), will. If we cut the military budget that much, we’d still have the biggest, richest, best-trained and equipped military in the world – by far. More on that in a future post.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bathroom Rivers

So, last night I’m in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner, and the kids are in the bath, when I hear suspicious splashing sounds. I peek in, and there’s Sam, pouring water from a plastic cup onto the bathroom floor. They’ve been at it a while. Most of the floor is covered with water, and it’s flowing in streams to the threshold and under the vanity.

What’re they doing? “We’re making rivers!” And, Trin chimes in, “It’s all Sam’s fault anyway. I didn’t do it!” Complete innocence.

Uh, huh.

It seems like a really good time to explain that aiding and abetting is a crime, but I don’t trust my voice to be calm and rational – I don't completely lose it, but it's close.

Just when I was going to post a piece on what little angels they are, perhaps with pictures from our recent visit to the snow.

That one will have to wait.

NVC failed me. In the end, I abdicated. Rather than commit violence and say/do something I would regret, I let Kristin handle it, and in short order they were out of the bath, soaking towels.

Those kids have no idea how lucky they are I’m not a single parent.

But it’s top-of-mind for me, how lucky I am that I’m not. Especially since I’m co-parent with this particular amazing woman, who lives life so deeply and touches and teaches with Non-Violent Communication.

Friday, March 7, 2008

An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton

First of all, congratulations on your wins in Ohio, Texas, and Rhode Island.

But you’re still behind in delegates, and the math is disastrous – enough to make victory a very steep uphill climb for you, but not enough to guarantee a victory for either you or Barak. The worst nightmare of me, and the worst nightmare for the American people, is coming into focus: You and Barack pound each other face-to-face all the way to the convention, while McCain and the Republican Smear Machine (the RSM) pound you both, practically unopposed; a brokered convention, with a lot of pissed off, discouraged Democrats at the end; a split party, and masses of disgusted independent voters; and a victory for McCain in the fall.

At this point, it’s hard to imagine a worse outcome for our entire country.

Please, don’t let it happen.

Barack won’t quit – He’s ahead, and the math favors him.

That leaves the onus on you, to prevent the looming disaster.

Granted, this argument comes from an Obama backer – why should you listen to me? (Especially since I’ll vote for the Democratic nominee even if it turns out to be a sock puppet.)

Because my brother, an independent who probably hasn’t voted for a major party candidate for president in his entire life, is ready to vote for Obama – and he likes McCain. He will likely vote for McCain if you win the Democratic nomination.

How many more votes like that are out there? Enough to turn a close election, like the last two?

We're all on the same team. Let's not lose the game because we're arguing over who gets to be captain.

Because what our nation needs right now in the White House is Barack’s brand of inspiration. I’m sorry, Hillary, but that is the hole in your platform. Your health plan is better than Barack’s. Your stance and understanding of gay and transgendered issues is better than Barack’s. Your experience in the political arena is greater than Barak’s.

But frankly, if the issue is experience, McCain’s got you both beat in spades. As for the 3:00 a.m. call, I have full confidence that you, Barack, and McCain can all handle that with competence. My concern is the day-to-day policy – the considered decision to waste more of our national treasure in military adventurism, to ignore the depredations of the far right on the queer community, to abandon our public to the mercies of a profit-driven, heartless health insurance industry, to let our civic infrastructure rot. You and Barack can both handle that competently, and neither will allow us (hopefully) to go too far over the cliff to not step back (if indeed Bush hasn’t already put us there).

So it comes down to that unifying, inspirational presence exhibited by Barack Obama, and for all your wonderful qualities and competencies, Hillary, that presence you do not have. But, you have gathered a lot of political capital. Don’t step down without a deal. Don’t step down without making sure that your own contribution will be secured.

There is a better place for you than in the White House. A place that will upset the right-wing fringe, the Ann Coulter’s and Rush Limbaugh’s, more than if you did win the White House. A place where the ranting of the right will no longer have any influence on your career, but where your brand of tenacity, wisdom, experience, and policy knowledge is sorely needed. A place where your legacy will be assured.

It is an almost sure bet that the next president (assuming all the aging justices survive into the fall and Bush doesn't get another one) will nominate at least one and likely more than one Supreme Court justice.

Now is the time to go to Obama, and to the superdelegates of the Democratic party (quietly, of course), and broker a deal that will unify the party to fight off McCain and the RSM, while securing your own legacy.

And trade in your presidential run for a seat on the Supreme Court.

I'd rather have you on the bench for 20 (or 30) years than in the Oval Office for four (or eight), anyway.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Pronouns

Recently I chaired a panel discussion on gender dysphoria, along with a friend who is a transman. Someone asked, “How can we best support you?” Jesse’s response was instant, even faster than mine: “Get our pronouns right.” I had to settle for saying, “He’s right. That’s exactly what I was going to say.”

It’s true. It’s that simple, and that difficult. Believe me, I know how hard it is. I see it all the time. Friends, family, allies – including queer allies – all use the wrong pronouns frequently. My kids actually get it right better than just about anyone.

I know how hard it is, how people struggle with it, but still, when people refer to me as “he” or “sir” or “him” or “his,” it hurts. It hurts because I’m not being seen, not completely recognized, for who I am. I’m a woman. It may be hard to see sometimes, but there is absolutely no question in my mind. I know, it’s totally weird – here’s this male body wandering around. I see it when I look in the mirror, and I recognize what it is. It’s just not my body. The only one I have, sure, but my mind still doesn’t believe it. I’m still surprised every time I look in the mirror. I don’t expect me to look like this (though the image is getting less jarring all the time).

Solutions? Upshot? I don’t know. I guess I’m just putting it out there, to anyone who wants to listen: please forget that other name, and please forget my body. See me! See who I am, not what a look like. And remember that ‘she’ and ‘ma’am’ are balm to my spirit.
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our
Beloved's.
~Hafiz